For many people with arthritis a major worry is that of employment. More specifically, the issue is being able to continue with their job and to the standards required by their employer.

Most of us work to live. Work pays the mortgage/rent and the utility bills as well as installing a sense of pride and self-respect. This is particularly important in the current economic climate where job insecurity has become an all too familiar situation for thousands of people in the UK.

Arthritis sufferers have an additional worry: that of their condition affecting their ability to do their job. Stress and fatigue are two very common symptoms of arthritis which sap your energy and generally, worsen your arthritis.

Some people have a severe form of arthritis which has resulted in a disability thereby preventing them from being able to work.

If you are able to work then you should do (as well as it being a financial necessity) but there is help available if your condition prevents you from working.

The issue of employment is discussed as follows:

  • Arthritis and work
  • Solutions for coping at work
  • Employment options for arthritis sufferers
  • Sources of help

Arthritis and work

Work can become a challenge if you develop arthritis. You will find that it takes you longer to complete tasks and that you tire more easily. You may find it difficult to concentrate or to see a task through to the end.

A flare up of your symptoms will also affect your ability to work.

This means finding ways to make it easier to do your job and without putting any additional strain on you and your arthritis.

Solutions for coping at work

There are three ways in which you can approach this: planning, prioritising and problem solving.

The aim with these three solutions is for you to able to undertake your duties to the standards required by your employer whilst being able to control your symptoms. It is normal to feel tired especially at the end of the working day but arthritis sufferers experience chronic tiredness or fatigue which needs to be managed.

So what you are aiming for is being be able to do your job without becoming too tired and hurting your joints, further exacerbating your arthritis.


Break down your tasks into manageable chunks. Make sure that you include a rest break between the more demanding tasks or alternate difficult tasks with easy tasks. Pace yourself.


Review your tasks and see if you can delegate some of these or obtain help with the more complex jobs.

Problem solving

Look at the way you complete these tasks and see if there are ways of simplifying the process. Try to avoid repetitive actions or ensure that you have short breaks in between. Keep an eye on your posture at all times and avoid standing or sitting down for too long.

These solutions apply to people who work in an office or have some form of desk job. It also includes people who work from home or are self-employed (and/or work from home).

If you have a job which is physically demanding then it is even more important that you pace yourself and avoid injuring your joints. In some cases it may mean a change of duties or moving into a new job.

Talk to your employer

Discuss your situation with your employer as soon as possible. He or she needs to be made aware of your condition sooner rather than later. The reason for this is that it gives him/her time to look at ways of helping you, e.g. workstation assessment.

Plus it is only fair that your employer is notified of your situation. You may be apprehensive about doing so, fearing that it could lead to your losing your job but this is not always the case. It is in your employer’s best interest to make provision for you; plus there is legislation under the Equality Act 2010 which protects you against ‘indirect discrimination’.

(Source: www.arthritiscare.org.uk)

Workstation assessment

This is a type of assessment which looks at your workplace or workstation to see if it is suitable for your needs and physical condition.

If not then a few changes can be made such as modifying your work equipment, e.g. an ergonomically designed keyboard or providing you with new equipment.

This is arranged by your employer and if possible, an occupational health department. Not every company has this department so you may need to speak to an occupational therapist via your GP.

Employment options for arthritis sufferers

There are several options regarding your employment which your employer will discuss with you. The needs of the company are important and any changes are weighed against these but a good, reliable and hard working employee is still valued by many employers.

These changes may include:

  • Change from full time to part time working
  • Flexible working
  • Working from home
  • Job sharing
  • Change to lighter duties
  • Change to another job within the same company

If you have been off sick from work for some time then your employer may consider a gradual return to the workplace. This phased return may mean that you start off by working part time and gradually increase this until you are able to manage a full time job.

Other help includes time off to attend hospital appointments help with travelling to and from work.

Sources of help

A useful source of help and information is the Access to Work (AtW) scheme which offers advice to arthritis sufferers and work related needs (www.direct.gov.uk).

Another option is to speak to a Disability Employment Adviser. They and the Access to Work scheme can be accessed via your local Jobcentre Plus office.

(Source: www.arthritisresearchuk.org)

Speak to a Jobcentre Plus adviser about the options available to you if your arthritis forces you to give up work. Do this if you are unable to undertake any form of work.

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